When two weeks ago I spoke about the absence of Witchwood cards, I already hoped for balance changes. The Kobolds and Catacombs expansion introduced many powerful cards, leading to untouchable archetypes. Today Blizzard announced they will be changing (yes, they’re all nerfs) six cards and lo and behold: four of them are from Kobolds and Catacombs. The mana-cheat cards (pay little for powerful effects) seem to be the target of this time, so let’s walk through the nerfs and see how they will impact Hearthstone.
Naga Sea Witch
This one is a pleaser for those who enjoy Hearthstone’s Wild mode. In a patch from August 2017, Naga Sea Witch’s effect was altered to impose a Mana cost change prior to the cost reduction a card may have itself. In other words: cards like Mountain Giant, Molten Giant and Clockwork Giant could simultaneously hit the board as soon as turn 5. Yeah, GG.
Needless to say, the crowd wasn’t too excited. While Blizzard argued that the combo statistically didn’t perform that well, the times it did perform well left one player feeling absolutely miserable. Increasing Naga Sea Witch’s cost by 3 Mana – the steepest change of any card, ever – will make decks built around the Giants significantly slower, giving aggressive strategies more time to rush their opponent down.
Initially kind of laughed at, Spiteful Summoner quickly took revenge when people realized they didn’t need cheap spells at all. Just jam Prince Keleseth, Spiteful Summoner and any class’ most expensive spells in a deck and you have yourself a decent-to-nutty Tempo deck. Spiteful Summoner found its best use in Priest and Druid lists, with the latter class still taking advantage of the ridiculously powerful turns in the current Witchwood meta.
The fact that Blizzard is changing the card is good – it’s been a frustrating card to face – but the change they will impose isn’t exactly what people expected and wanted: have Spiteful Summoner consume the revealed spell, akin to The Grand Archivist’s effect. At 7 Mana Spiteful Summoner does give aggressive decks more time to run down their opponent, and gives slower decks more time to find their removal. Sure. But one of the largest issues perceived still remains: Spiteful decks get to double-dip on the value of big spells.
Oh, how fearsome a 5 Mana 2/2 can be. Possessed Lackey was just one of the six extremely powerful cards Warlock received with Kobolds and Catacombs, and now it’s being sent deeper into the darkness of the Kobold’s mines. Paired with Dark Pact – yes, that one’s also being nerfed – the demon-harboring Gnome allowed for extremely powerful cards like Doomguard and Voidlord to hit the board way ahead of schedule while also ignoring negative Battlecry effects.
The cost increase to Possessed Lackey delays those power swings by a turn, but it seems fairly subtle. As the Warlock you still get to draw your big guys ahead of schedule, and as the opposing deck you can do a little more against it. While Warlock’s power level definitely is tied to Possessed Lackey, the card would definitely not be as strong weren’t it for:
Ah yes, Dark Pact. Carnivorous Cube trigger and crazy-combo enabler, all while providing an insane amount of burst heal. “Who would want to kill off their own minions?”, we asked ourselves naively at first. Now cards like Skulking Geist are run in lists just to counter this pesky thing. Perhaps that still will happen after the nerf to counter the combination of Carnivorous Cube and Doomguard, but at least Aggro-afficionados won’t pull out their hair anymore when all their hard work is undone in merely 1 turn.
Call to Arms
Poor Uther, Liadrin and Arthas. This one hurts, and rightfully so. Aggressive Paladin lists had been popular for a while, and the addition of Call to Arms gave them quite an extra boost. Turns out paying 4 Mana for minions you should’ve payed 6 Mana for is pretty good. Of course you need to build your deck a bit around the card, but when there are only a handful of viable 2-drops available, the choice can be made quickly.
Paladin’s most oppressive deck now, Even Paladin, will be completely erased from existence. Call to Arms was that core to its strategy. And with Odd Paladin (already the worst Paladin list) only pulling 1-drops from Call to Arms, the card will only find home in decks that contain both even and odd costed cards.
The Caverns Below
Sigh. Oh Quest Rogue. As I argued a couple of weeks ago, the deck does indeed have its issues. While it’s one of the hardest decks in Hearthstone’s history, its complexity was overshadowed by the incredibly polarized match-ups. Against aggressive decks you’d almost guaranteed lose, against control-oriented decks you’d almost guaranteed win. So how will the second nerf to Quest Rogue affect the deck? Well, the opinions are incredibly divided.
Some say the deck will be completely dead, as its burst potential is lower and cards like Primordial Drake now kill the incoming 4/4’s. Others think Valeera the Hollow will become more essential to achieve a victory, but that overall it should still fare decently well. And then the last group says nothing will change at all. Quest Rogue is a tough beast to tackle. Blizzard has overlooked the deck twice, so it’s nearly impossible to say with confidence what will happen.
Winners and losers
Will Anduin reign supreme soon?
So with these changes, what will happen to the Hearthstone meta? Even Paladin lists take the heaviest blow as they are completely trash without Call to Arms. However, don’t say goodbye to aggressive Paladin lists just yet. Murloc Paladin was already lurking in the shadows, and that deck just might find use for Call to Arms still. Aside from that deck, another aggressive deck goes completely untouched: Burn Mage. Aluneth was on many player’s nerf list too, but with the card-drawing staff intact Mages will almost certainly rise in popularity.
Mind Blast Priests too avoided the nerf hammer, and with some players already considering the deck the best one around, it’s almost certain the deck will be seen more. The same cannot be said as easily of two decks that others consider the best: Cubelock and Control Warlock. With Possessed Lackey and Dark Pact taking a hit Warlocks take a hit. But will both Cubelock and Control Warlock cease to exist? Doomguard somewhat inexplicably dodged the bullet once again (make it have Rush and discard 1 card, please), and Control Warlock can often outlast other decks even without activating Possessed Lackey.
The meta is bound to depolarize. Rock, paper, scissors won’t be as prevalent as it is now. While the power level of Quest Rogue is uncertain, I’d be hard-pressed to say all the changes won’t make the deck’s match-ups at least a little better for control-oriented decks.
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